Another Look at The Way Things Go Before It’s Gone

Apr. 28, 2017
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the way things go

Live theater can be perfectly happy to tell a nice, little story with a beginning, middle and end. Every now and then, it decides to do something else. Every now and then, theater gets really, really direct. Theatre Gigante’s The Way Things Go is one of those. The stage takes a look at various possible narratives and decides instead to jump headlong into the gullet of explicit abstraction in search of something deeper. There’s movement, spoken word, dance, embrace and juggling ricocheting pleasantly around the central narrative of a fundamental text about life and reality. 

The Pitman Theatre is huge. You walk through it to get to the show, which comes to hang out on the stage. It’s casual, but in a really intense way. Mark Anderson’s monologue Manual serves as the foundation. In very simple language it attempts to peel everything in the universe back to the level of a linguistic blueprint for everyone assembled onstage. Yes, it DOES feel like a manual for the universe, but it also feels like the fine print at the bottom of the contract we all signed before we learned what a signature was. Watching it feels a lot like reading a contract you signed at birth without realizing it: you’re totally aware of everything that’s being said, but since the production decides to foveate on it onstage, it suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. 

A parade of isolated moments coalesce into something that’s a whole lot more than just a single trip to the theatre. Any stage performance is a world and lifetime unto itself, but a show like this really feels like its own little lifetime. Theatre Gigante’s The Way Things Go is a playful snuggle with infinity in so many isolated moments. The form and flow of it all makes the show feel like such a rich and expansive thing that its easy to forget what we’re not seeing as an audience. It’s the next morning and it occurs to me that there really wasn’t much anger or aggression in the world onstage with Theatre Gigante last night. It’s easy how easy it is to live without that sort of thing. Why bother with anger when there’s love? 

At one point Ron Scot Fry talks about love and there’s Marissa Clayton standing in a stretch on her toes with her face buried in the lush facial carpeting of a rather wickedly-bearded Evan James Koepnick. It’s endearing. It might be the most vivid stage kiss of the theater season. It helps that they’re both exceptionally attractive people. Later-on (or perhaps earlier) Melissa Matson and Fry roll around in the most gracefully abstract representations of the gracelessness of passion. They’re doing this while delivering abstract information about sex and human connection. With love like this, why the need for aggression in drama? Why bother? Mark Anderson and co-creator Isabelle Kralj do such a good job of showing love onstage (to actors and audience alike) that the other end of human emotion. Why bother with destructive aggression?

This is not to say that the show isn’t playing with tension. The precariousness of the human condition. There’s a lot of movement onstage. Sometimes it feels as though one might run into another. Fry delivers some information on stilts. He’s man onstage with his words and his stilts. Out of the sorts of context we so often get with stilted people the position feels that much more tenuous. Ben Yela delivers an entire monologue while riding a bicycle in circles onstage. It seems perfectly natural but it feels perfectly natural for him to crash into something at any moment because the space he shares with the rest of us onstage is just so...cozy.  But like anything else that’s cozy in life, there’s always the chance of a crash. Life’s a juggle. At one point three guys are onstage doing three different three-ball cascades while talking about something that feels very important, but there’s always the feeling like something just might fall. That’s life in the cuddly infinity of a show that simply must go The Way Things Go by weekend’s end.

Theatre Gigante’s The Way Things Go has two more performances: Apr. 28 and Apr. 29 at Alverno College’s Pitman Theatre on 3431 S. 39th St. For ticket reservations, visit Theatre Gigante online.

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